County eyes new rules for developers

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

COURTLAND—Developers planning projects in Southampton County could face a variety of new requirements in the future, based on ordinances the Planning Commission moved closer to approving Thursday night.

A new Stormwater Management Ordinance and an updated Subdivision Ordinance both got preliminary nods Thursday and are likely to be up for public comment in September.

Committees have been working on both ordinances for the past six months, tweaking them to better meet the county’s needs. Planners heard presentations on both new mandates and recommended that they be advertised for public hearings.

The Stormwater Management Ordinance is intended to create standards that help manage the rainfall runoff that results when growth and development change the ability of the land to absorb water, Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph told the planners.

&uot;This ordinance is designed to help protect county streams, rivers and groundwater,&uot; he said. In addition to county officials, members of the committee that developed the new plan included Blackwater-Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner and a professional engineering firm, the Timmons Group.

In general, the new ordinance would require developers to present stormwater management plans for county approval and to submit performance bonds to guarantee that the plans come to fruition.

The ordinance sets criteria for water quality around new developments and governs such issues as stream channel erosion and flooding that can occur as the impermeable surfaces of rooftops and parking lots replace woods and fields.

Following on the heels of the work done by the county’s Land Development Task Force in support of last year’s comprehensive plan update, a subcommittee from the Planning Commission also has completed an update of Southampton’s 30-year-old subdivision ordinance.

The Land Development group helped develop the policies that resulted in targeting areas around the county’s towns and the City of Franklin as residential growth areas.

The subdivision ordinance is intended to control how that growth takes place, governing such things as open space, roads and lighting within proposed new housing clusters.

During their meeting on Thursday, planners grappled over one outstanding issue in the proposed new ordinance: private roads.

In order to discourage &uot;piano-key&uot; development, the county presses developers to design their subdivisions with single entry points and interior roads that drop travelers at each home.

But for smaller subdivisions the cost of building those roads to state standards can be prohibitive.

Small-scale developers often seek to build private roads to overcome that hurdle, but that solution can bring its own problems, as homeowners in those subdivisions must work out a plan among themselves for continuing road maintenance.

After discussing the dangers of leaving that kind of loose end, commissioners agreed to set two different standards, based on the size of the small-scale subdivision.

Those with five or fewer lots would be required to have roads built to the state’s design standards in terms of width, but they could be covered with gravel.

Subdivisions with six or more lots would be required to have roads with an upgraded surface that would be renewed every couple of years, but still would not need to be paved with asphalt.

In other business Thursday, the Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend approval of a request to rezone a 1.36-acre portion of a 126.64-acre tract on Saint Lukes Road from agricultural to conditional rural residential.

The new designation would allow development of one single-family residential lot on the property.

There was no public objection to the request.